The Asian giant subjects impoverished countries to loans and promises of investments, cheap labor, precariousness, and environmental deterioration, the model imposed in Africa.
For some years now, China has initiated a slow but constant process of unbridled " neo-colonization ". Mainly in Latin America. The rigid moral standards imposed by the Communist Party (PCC) on the population and its ruling class would prevent the regime from subjecting other peoples to the force of crucifixes or gospels as happened in past centuries. Nor would current times permit military invasions. That is why its expansionist voracity bears the stamp of the U.S. Federal Reserve: its officials offer dollars. Many dollars. From to billions. And it seems to work.
Millennial wisdom pays off for the CCP. Its hierarchies - headed by Xi Jinping, the president of the central government - know each one of the weaknesses and needs of the Third World countries whose majority of leaders and drivers only think about perpetuating themselves in power or surviving it. Africa and Latin America, historically relegated continents, are clear examples of Beijing's use of its money to exploit its resources and try to impose customs and laws.
In the Latin region, China has been reaching out more actively for more than a decade. Always with the same tactic: soft loans and fresh money. Always with the same strategy: trying to appropriate the tempting and infinite natural resources and information. Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina, for example, were some of the countries where they made foot by force of convertible yuan. Since 2005, around 141 billion dollars have descended as manna to the delight of presidents who love 21st Century Socialism. The dollars were transferred from the Chinese Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China.
The Chavista dictatorship led by Nicolás Maduro, for example, is a great partner and debtor. According to the Financial Database of China and Latin America, the credits that landed in Caracas in the last 10 years reached about 62 billion dollars. So far, it still has to pay more than a third of that amount.
Knowing the delicate financial and economic situation of the Miraflores Palace, Beijing will have to wait. He knows that the dripping of barrels of oil and areas of mining and crude will be assigned in exchange for not being a hostile creditor. What's more, Maduro is promoting a joint venture with the parent company of PetroChina, China's National Petroleum Corporation, better known by its acronym CNPC. Together they would create a new business unit that could be equivalent to 65,000 barrels every 24 hours.
But there is another risk, and that is environmental. Under what parameters do the Chinese companies that set up in the Orinoco Basin operate to exploit - in addition to the refineries - Venezuela's diamond and gold mines? It's a mystery. Under what labor laws do Venezuelan employees work? Or are they mostly Chinese?
Ecuador, in Rafael Correa's time, was also a beneficiary of eastern generosity. Since 2009, about $17.5 billion has been allocated to him. The sectors that would see the dollars rain: hydrocarbons, electricity, mining. Companies like Sinohydro, Gezhouba, China Petroleum, and Chinalco are in charge of several of the largest projects, not only on Ecuadorian soil but throughout Latin America.
A report by the Collective on Chinese Financing and Investment, Human Rights and Environment (CICDHA) - made up of a consortium of NGOs from Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil - documented "the Chinese state's failure to comply with its extraterritorial human rights obligations by at least 18 projects operated by 15 Chinese business consortia, which have acted with the support of 6 Chinese banks in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Of the 18 documented cases, 7 belong to the mining industry, 6 to the oil industry, and 5 to the water sector. Likewise, 15 affect indigenous territories, 11 affect protected natural areas, 5 are natural and cultural heritage recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 12 correspond to the Ecuadorian, Bolivian, and Brazilian Amazon region.
The violation of the rights of communities is a constant. "In Ecuador, the San Carlos Panantza project has reported several raids, arbitrary detentions, and judicial investigations against indigenous leaders as a result of the confrontation over forced evictions in August 2016, an event that left one policeman dead and nine people injured," denounce human rights organizations. Details: all attacks were conducted by the corporations in charge of the investment plan.
In most of the projects, China disregards international recommendations and tramples on communities - especially indigenous communities - and the environment. In Bolivia, for example, "the Nueva Esperanza oil block overlaps with one of the three territories of the Tacana indigenous people, which is home to an indigenous people in voluntary isolation 'Toromona'. Although the Tacana opposed oil exploration, the Bolivian government imposed the project and carried out a consultation process in which conditions were agreed to safeguard the territory and protect the Tacana and Toromona peoples. However, BGP Inc. ignored the agreements and caused environmental damage affecting their livelihoods," says the same document. For Evo Morales, some indigenous people have more rights than others.
In Argentina, meanwhile, the governments of Cristina Kirchner and Mauricio Macri - of different political persuasions - agreed on something. They allowed and encouraged the installation of an "observation" base in Patagonia for the exclusive use of the Chinese government. The participation of Argentine officials is forbidden there. No one can come near to see what this gigantic antenna capable of collecting communications throughout the continent is all about. Only uniforms with red flags and yellow stars may cross their gates.
Africa under China
The African continent is one of China's biggest bets. Politically it began its first steps in the 1960s when it began to dispute its influence in that region with the United States and its rival in communism, the Soviet Union. It was a time of the Cold War when money did not flourish in the capital of the Lost City. Now the story is different... at least economic.
In Nigeria, for example, in addition to the big companies associated with Beijing such as Huawei or China Bridge, the regime pushes smaller entrepreneurs to settle abroad and penetrate populations to the bone. They leave China because of the limited domestic business opportunities they can find in a largely impoverished population. Or by direct order.
Examples abound in that African country. Igbesa, a small area 60 kilometers from Lagos, the most important city of the nation is one of them. In this free trade zone, the bosses are Chinese businessmen who were facilitated by the Nigerian central power. The "investors" promised to improve the infrastructure. They did it to the extreme: now in the large and important town, they managed to impose their laws, police that answer to them, and their administration.
A state within another where those who have the management are businessmen sent by the PCC, who in addition to controlling the land, order who can and who can not trade products across borders.
But the forgotten city of Ogun state not only suffers from the Chinese police yoke. The environment is also a victim of destruction. Its people have made desperate requests for the authorities to put a stop to what they call an "invasion" of land. The community has denounced that at least 500 hectares had been destroyed by the "investors" even though they could not exploit them.
In absolute terms, the mentioned fraction does not seem extensive... if one does not own some of the hectares there. The Chinese legal representatives responded harshly: they threatened to sue the owners and take back the acquisition they had obtained in 1977. Litigation for them would be unthinkable in economic terms. The Nigerian government, meanwhile, is looking the other way.
"Every time I come to Africa I see the dynamism of the continent and the aspirations of its people for development. The words correspond to Jinping. He pronounced them in July 2018 on his fourth trip to the continent. It certainly did not refer to the dynamism and development perceived by the men and women of Ogun.
Namibia is another clear example. It completely opened the doors of its natural resources, almost the exclusive source of income for the economy of that relatively new state. Despite the promises of growth made by the "investors", none allowed the development of their economy or infrastructure. The nation continues to lag.
But Beijing is not only interested in the exploitation of its riches (diamonds, copper, uranium, gold, silver, lead, tin, lithium, cadmium, tungsten, zinc, and oil?). So is its political influence. Just ten days ago both governments signed an agreement by which the Chinese regime would train its armed forces. This is the College of Personnel and Commands run by the PCC. For the president of the African country, Hage Geingob, it is about the contribution of knowledge in tactical and operative wars and the role of the military in a "democratic society". No one dared to laugh when the words "China" and "democracy" were combined in the same sentence.
Another irony also emerges: Namibia achieved definitive independence in 1990. The rebelliousness of colonial times seems to have been forgotten by leaving resources and military training in the hands of another empire, instruments that any political discourse would place under the umbrella of sovereignty.
Other African nations have also allowed the disembarkation of money and officials and businessmen sent by the Chinese communist regime: Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan, or Djibouti are other blessed ones. In September 2018, Jinping had promised brand new capital on the continent for 60 billion dollars. The eyes of the rulers shone. Someone must have exaggerated an emotion. The gesture of the Chinese leader, on the other hand, was indecipherable. His objective was not. Three years earlier, he had also offered an identical sum which he was concretizing. The lions licked each other.
Specifically, this last sum - announced last year at the summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum - will be divided into 15 billion dollars in interest-free loans, 20 billion in credit lines, 10 billion in development funds, and 5 billion to finance African imports. The rest are in other private capital.
Bilateral trade between China and the continent is growing at about 20% per year. Since 2000, Beijing has granted credits of 136,000 million dollars, according to data from the American consulting firm McKinsey. The argument is always the same from the Jinping office: the development of Africa. However, in this period there is little evolution that can be observed in those countries.
In 20 years a total of 5 million children have died as a result of the lack of an efficient sanitation system and drinking water on the continent that China claims to help. Where are the investments of tens of thousands of millions of dollars? A note from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in January of this year warned that "thousands of people live at risk of starvation in Somalia, Southern Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen and it is more important than ever not to forget so that the tragedy does not repeat itself".
It is difficult to sustain the defense of those investments that are not oriented to the most basic thing for human beings: food subsistence. The regime's plans, on the other hand, map out other horizons. Dozens of technology companies disembark in African countries to carry out all kinds of layouts: mobile networks, electricity, airports, the Internet.
The management of these networks also implies the discretionary management of the information they possess. And the examples of misuse are numerous. The most scandalous is the one that exposed a publication of the North American newspaper The Wall Street Journal that indicated that the largest telephone company allied to the PCC -Huawei Technologies Co.- would have helped local governments to spy on political rivals. The company immediately denied the information and threatened the New York-based newspaper with a trial. However, the evidence presented by the investigative journalism team was overwhelming and plausible.
The article described how the mechanism that intercepted and unblocked encrypted communications from opponents, hacked into their social networks, or tracked them in real-time worked. Even one of the favored governments publicly thanked the management. Impunity or naivety?
One of the victims was a political leader of Ugandan youth descent and a member of the Ugandan parliament. This is Robert Bobi Kyagulanyi, who is also a renowned musician. Bobi was being spied on by the digital surveillance unit of Yoweri Museveni's regime. However, his technicians were unable to penetrate his cell phone or social networks. That's when they would have gone to the main mobile player in the country.
The technicians of the Chinese firm were then the solution to the problem facing the regime: spying on a rival of President Museveni, according to The Wall Street Journal. They needed two days to fulfill their mission. That's how they managed to penetrate their dialogues through Whatsapp and Skype. They documented all his movements and disarticulated demonstrations that he was planning. Bobi was apprehended.
In Zambia, another president, Edgar Lungu was also suspicious of his rivals and did not have the necessary tools to catch them. That's why he ordered a system of espionage that wasn't enough. That's why his digital police had to resort to more reliable technicians. Coincidentally, they worked for the world's largest technology company that Beijing protects.
This time, two of Huawei's experts were hired by the Zambian government. They worked together from August 2018 until the end of April 2019. They devoted their knowledge to infiltrating the networks and phones of bloggers annoying the regime. Liswaniso Songiso, Patrick Mweetwa, Derrick Munshya, and Emmanuel Kamosha, the spies, were arrested after the "successful" hacking.
The dominance could be further extended if Huawei wins 5G network contracts in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Who will control the back doors that this network would house across the globe? Who would be willing to give the neo colonizer its omnipresence in telecommunications?
The temptation is paramount for anyone in need of money and investment promises. Especially in poor continents and with a different course. All the more so if it is a question of nations whose leaders tend to see the future only as their political project and not as sustainable development in time without compromising natural resources, one of the main values a country can have, in addition to the strategic vision of its drivers.